Carpenter Square Theatre features the play Expecting Isabel about two Manhattanites, Nick and Miranda, who are planning to start a family.
Director Brett Young puts together a seamless evening from a complicated pastiche of narration, endless settings and nearly 30 roles played by an ensemble whose members switch wigs and costumes with breathtaking ease. The constantly shifting, cleverly conceived set features bright, modular boxes painted like infant toy blocks.
Talented leads Erin Woods and Joe DiBello team together beautifully as the plain, earnest couple at the center of the storm of surreal chuckles. Once they are committed, no request is too demeaning, no procedure too extreme. Through the valley of the ridiculous, somehow their love shines through.
With sure strokes, supporting players in multiple roles create this comic acid trip into parenthood. Rebecca McCauley shines as Nick's pushy Italian mom, a high-drama adoption mentor and a support group member paying for her early promiscuity.
Kris Schinske plays Miranda's mother, a barely-on-her-feet lush, with just the right touch, as well as a Zen-high fertility counselor. Shane Green is delightful as several authority figures, especially the quintessential Italian patriarch whose principles include no mayonnaise or talk of physics under his roof.
Memorable Scotty Taylor shows great character chops as a sleazy brother and angry cab driver, while Holly McNatt is particularly funny as a hugely pregnant con woman. Cristela Carrizales deepens the tone as a conflicted Puerto Rican mother who doesn't know how to keep her growing brood together.
Although a little uneven, Lisa Loomer's script cleverly keeps the desperate couple grounded in reality, while everyone around them takes on the outlandish qualities of a twisted children's book. "Expecting Isabel" transcends its obvious target audience by providing a poke at society that's funny even if you've never struggled with starting a family. Expect mature themes. "?Linda McDonald